“Money” the dirtiest word
OK. So BOOM! There I was in the middle of my crappy job having started a mutiny amongst my co-workers to the big bosses; all because I had a conversation about the amount I was being paid with another co-worker. I assumed they were making more.
All I heard over the roar of power tools and radio chatter was “KRYSTAL! Come here for a second!” The way my name had been called made me feel like an 8-year-old walking to my doom as my mother confronted me about her delicious candy bar I had eaten. Only this time my mother wasn’t around and I was a grown ass woman confused on why I felt like I was in trouble.
Boss: “Did you discuss how much you’re getting paid with anyone here?”
Boss: “Why would you do that?!”
Manager Bystander: *scoffs and twists up their nose at me*
Me: “I didn’t know it was a secret. They asked and I told. Was I not supposed to?”
Boss: “No, you’re never supposed to discuss money.”
Manager Bystander: “Yea you’ve never been told that?! Never discuss money or politics!”
Boss: “You’ve started a mutiny because you make more than them.”
Me: *stares unimpressed* “Oh.”
Exits stage left
Apparently there’s this unspoken rule that you NEVER, EVER discuss money. At that moment all I could think about is the random conversation that I’d had with the bystander about politics in which he was hell-bent on hating Hilary at the time but somehow talking about money was an issue…?
The sad part is I was only being paid $10/hr and my first thought was “SO WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PAYING THEM?!” My co-workers had been there longer and were more experienced than I was. If they were starting to complain about how much they were being paid then it was long overdue.
I was unimpressed with the hourly rate I had so anything lower than that would have been a deal-breaker for me. I inadvertently get people to demand more of themselves and their jobs but that’s a post for a later time.
Right now let’s discuss why the world sees money talk as a profane language.
What’s Done in the Dark
Not on the job. Not in the living room of your rich Uncle’s mansion. Not even while living in the cardboard box in the alley. The message we’re being sent is simply don’t discuss it. It’s uncomfortable, unprofessional. It’s none of your business.
YET, it’s by keeping the numbers in the dark that inequality is able to thrive in almost every aspect of business as it relates to money. Regardless of if it’s women being paid less than men. Brown people being paid less than Vanilla people. Brown women being paid less than EVERYBODY
…it’s able to thrive because no one talks about what’s in their wallet.
I’ve always been open with how broke I am and not afraid to discuss it with others. Or so I thought. Until I found myself actively avoiding money related questions like “how much did that cost?” or “You must be making pretty good money.” Then a light bulb went off because I realize now that what steers us clear from discussions of money is fear of judgement.
We don’t want to be held accountable based of our $$$.
We don’t want to be pitied based on our lack thereof.
We don’t want you to price check every purchase based off the understanding of our financial situation.
We don’t want that negative judgement that comes with having money or not having money.
The crazy part is by keeping our money issues, anxieties or celebrations on the hush, hush we often miss out on deep conversations that could be a milestone in our lives and in paving the way for others.
Case-in-point? What’s one of the top reasons that couples get divorced?
Balance, No Balance…Balance
If you’re making a little more money than people around you are used to then you are familiar with hearing “Boy let me hold sumthin’, you big money now!” OR “Everybody ain’t got it like you do.” This could lead to a feeling of disconnect and unwillingness to share in money-related discussions as people assume you have it and life is good.
The truth is usually that you are making just enough to not be wholly considered broke but not enough to “Let them hold sumthin.” So you don’t discuss money because having a little extra is often expected to be shared in your circle and not for personal enjoyment in the form of a nice dinner or trip out-of-town.
Growing up around those who only express money issues and go radio silent around tax season has led many of you to distrust discussions of money with family and close loved ones. Also, the fear of being judged for enjoying your new-found money causes you to *Exit Stage Right* whenever your Great Aunt Cheryl starts loudly complaining about her bills for the month at the family gathering.
Broke Back Money
Truly being broke comes with its share of embarrassment. You don’t want anyone to know your struggle so you act like money is no issue.
“You’re blessed to even have a job” you tell yourself as you stave off the itch to ask for a raise or require a family member to pay for work you’ve done for them.
Us women do this a lot.
We don’t want to be seen as problematic, desperate or dependent.
With less than $20 in the checking account, no direct deposit in sight and bills just over the horizon the last thing you want is the judgmental, pity face from those who look up to you or depend on you.
You shower your friends with excuses on why you can’t attend brunch or tell your family you don’t feel well enough to attend that birthday party instead of admitting to them that you simply don’t have it. Bending over backwards to cover up your money issues only ends up breaking your back and your wallet.
Know Your worth
Us millennial are familiar with the endless sea of articles that tell us how worthless we are. No…literally. At the rate we are going most of us will likely die with a negative net worth. The culprit? 1.4 Trillion dollars of student loan debt. Here’s where I’ll make it personal and be transparent in an attempt to connect with you. Right now I make a decent living; working two jobs (looking for a third) and braving the road of entrepreneurship is no easy feat.
I pay my bills on time (most of them) and I try to do something big for myself at least once a year in the form a trip so that I don’t go crazy. I fight the urge to leave it all behind to go live in Tuscany like that lady in that movie because even when life is unicorns and rainbows I still feel the weight of my $40,000+ student loan debt.
I’m constantly having to choose between quality of life and financial responsibilities all because I started off into adulthood coming from a low-income background and had the audacity to want to further my education.
But instead of telling my partner why I am such a stickler for saving and money handling in general; I let him suffer thinking that I was a crazy person. The truth is that every dollar I make feels unreal because I know that I am working myself out of a hole big enough to fit a mortgage and new vehicle in. But because we don’t discuss money our debates would seem like I was bitchin’ about a Wendy’s 4 for $4 over a $7 baconator combo when what I really was saying is “I GOT MONEY BUT I’M BROKE N****, I’M BROKE!”
I couldn’t talk to my family about it because I was their beacon of light. I was “The one they didn’t have to worry about.” I was the one that made it out. And I couldn’t talk to my friends because in some financial form they were or had been getting help with their debt. I was on my own I told myself. I would die having worked all my life only to leave my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with nothing.
How depressing is that?! I finally got over myself and opened up to my boyfriend about my anxieties. We had the “MONEY TALK” and got a better understanding of how our personalities, realities and experiences play a part in how we handle the green. Better yet it took a weight off my shoulders and allowed me to see possibilities of getting out of debt within this actual lifetime.
Bank of Knowledge
Imagine if we openly discussed money…
No, No, No…that wouldn’t happen but a lot of people seem to focus so much on all the reasons you shouldn’t discuss money and none of the reasons of why you should.
Imagine young adults having a better understanding of how to open a checking/savings account in a bank or taking on student loans because they discussed it with parents or received a money management course in school.
Imagine that inequality in pay among women and men were seriously addressed once people start chattin’ about their paychecks in the break room over coffee and doughnuts. Dave from accounting is making $4.00/hr more than Jessica but she will never know this because money is never to be discussed; especially in the workplace.
Imagine couples having a serious discussion about money management and debt before the I dos.
Don’t shout your account balance from the rooftop…that’s not at all what I’m trying to say. My point is simply this…
Having the Money Talk with those who you trust and will likely be actively managing money with in the future is important. It is also important to encourage others you’re around to actively seek rightful pay from their contributions and performance.
Money doesn’t have to be vilified but the way we approach it should.
Does talking about the green make you uncomfortable? Have you had the “Money Talk” with a loved one? Let’s Talk about it, Comment below or Share.
Omg! You left so many gems in this post and I don’t even know where to begin.
I didn’t know money was a dirty word until I had my 3rd internship in Boston. My co-worker was telling me about her work experience and casually mentioned that she was being paid much, so I innocently posed the question, How much money do you make? She told me a range and then said that I really shouldn’t be talking about such things.
Two years later and was making a pretty decent salary. I told everyone – friends, cousins, mom, dad, brothers and even the leasing agent knew my income. It felt good to tell them but I soon learned that I’d better keep such info to myself.
The leasing agent tried to get me to park my car in an expensive lot. When I refused, she said, “Well you earn enough money to park here.” My dad would always insist I pick up the tab at a restaurant because of all the money I was getting paid. And forget it. Christmas was rough. Everyone expected me to buy them an expensive present.
Now, I don’t tell anyone how much I make. My career coach and my husband are the only people who know my income. Parents, siblings, no one knows. And I like it that way. It lowers everyone’s expectations. And it gives me protection and it also protects our relationship.
It’s catch 22 sharing your income. I agree with you. Employers hold all the power and inequality continues. You’re damned if you share and damned if you don’t share.
This is a topic I’m pretty passionate about (I’m sure you can tell) so let’s chat! I’ve also written about it on my blog “Three Secrets To Keep,” “Honesty Aint Always The Best Policy”
I so love how much you shared; it’s given me a lot to think about.
Every since I was younger I was a hoarder of money; I’d have secret stashes only God knew about and not much has changed since I’ve grown older. The crazy part is I don’t mind sharing my income with people who I’m not truly connected with but when it comes to friends and family FORGET ABOUT IT! I keep what I make under a tight wrap from family because they often assuming I’m a thousandnaire (when I really and truly don’t make much) and I keep it from friends because of embarrassment. I’ve had to get over this stigma so that I could begin building a trust of money not only for my future independently but dependently (with my guy) as well.
People are notorious for exploiting any bit of knowledge they can get their hands on so I totally agree with only sharing such information when necessary but I think we need to widen our scope to when it’s “necessary” to fit the workplace and marriage in there.
Money is such a touchy subject because in this society we place value on a person based off their pockets. There’s so many more posts I could dive into with this topic because it’s so broad and dynamic…and it effects us all. I will definitely be checking out your posts on this subject as I really enjoy your writing.
It’s interesting that you don’t mind sharing your income with strangers. Do you openly share with co-workers? If so, how do they react?
Yes, people exploit the info you share, but honestly I believe money makes you the most vulnerable. For instance, I’d rather share something sensitive about my marriage with associates. The most they’d do is provide unsolicited advice or maybe talk about it with others but I’m not sure how much they could use that to manipulate me. I guess they could, but not that much. But money? Omg, they’d have me pick up the tab expensive restaurants or tell me to purchase the most expensive item on their baby shower list. The list goes on.
Sharing your salary with co-workers is dangerous. In 2010, I had my co-worker do my taxes (bad idea). He told my other co-workers how much I make, which was considerably higher than their salaries And my goodness. One girl tried to sabotage my work. She made snide remarks. It was embarrassing and made me feel extremely uncomfortable.
I’d prefer my co-workers not know how much money I make and I know this will perpetuate inequality. But I just don’t know any other solution. I should do another blog post about this topic.
What are your thoughts?
There are marriages where each party keeps
That’s horrible what your coworker did. But i’m actually in a very interesting situation; I’m on salary right now for a public institution so my coworkers and I know what each other makes; however, we have a very distinct hierarchy as it is just 4 of us who all have specific roles. So there’s no issues with knowledge that was made available from the moment we interviewed.
But let me clarify, I’m definitely not down with telling all of my financial business but if I sense that a co-worker is having some of the same issues as me then i’m a lot more open with pay and financial concerns than I would be with family simply because the information I give is usually already available, they have no real power to hurt me with the information, and I usually sense that they just need someone to talk to.
In reflecting on my work experience now I realize that I’ve mostly been in environments where they pay was either set or increased based on rank so there were no issues. That’s partly what lead me to discussing pay so openly with a coworker that I mentioned because I was use to pay being a ranking structure.
I agree though, with mid to upper level professional jobs discussing pay can be a slippery slope but corporations and businesses perpetuate inequality by depending on the stigma that money carries in the workplace. I don’t think anyone should go into detail about their finances especially with co-workers who may already be gunning for your position but we should get to a space where saying salary is not such a big deal.
I don’t have the answers honestly, because competition is the cornerstone of our economy and it shows up in the workplace through vague discussions of pay. But if no one knows the starting or finish line how can we ensure that everyone is playing fair?
As far as marriage (i’m still single technically) but I think it best to ditch the days of having one account. I think a joint accounts (one for savings, one for bills) is best for couples with clear differences in money management. But money simply isn’t something that people feel comfortable discussing even with someone who will be their life partner and that’s where the issues begin. If you don’t discuss money in relationships with a clear understanding of spending, saving and general management habits then how can you avoid such issues once the cake is cuts and the ink is dry.
There are marriages where each person keeps their salary hush hush. I don’t agree with that either. Sheesh, you gotta talk about it. You are building one future together. I just don’t get it.
You have my brain turning cartwheels lol as I was just reminded that while my co-workers at the place I mentioned in the post were making $8.50/hr a very crappy and temperamental assistant manager was racking in $17/hr….And while everyone knew he was making more they didn’t know exactly how much (I had my ways of finding out) so while he demanded more pay based off the fact that he was a good seller there were employees who were loyal and more hardworking, making far less. Before I quit there I encouraged my co-workers to demand a raise.